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The President of the DSK Shivajians and LFC International Academy had his say on matters pertinent to his club’s initiatives in football development in the subcontinent...

As many an Indian football fan will be aware, it has been about eight months since DSK Shivajians announced an exclusive link up with the Liverpool FC academy to train youngsters in the city of Pune. For this purpose, campaigns had been organized in six major cities throughout the country to select the talented youngsters for a future career in football.

In an interview to Goal, Shirish Kulkarni, President of the Liverpool International Football Academy – DSK Shivajians, bore his plans to ensure he enriched the lives of each and every participant selected to undergo this prestigious training under the coaches of the academy.

When questioned on the response to his academy’s campaign in six cities with some statistics on the number of participants, he duly replied, “Our first ever nationwide talent scouting which covered six cities, saw about 2500 enthusiastic participants trying to impress the Liverpool coaches to secure a place in the final 64 boys who would be selected to form the first batch. During these two months of trials and scouting, we witnessed an overwhelming response. The fact that this is a first of its kind initiative has generated a lot of interest in India and what is most heartening is the response shared by the Liverpool coaches to the talent and skills displayed.

“As the Liverpool coaches were for the first time scouting for talent in India they were impressed with not only the turnout in every city but also the football knowledge and enthusiasm of aspiring youngsters.

"Our scouting itself opened with a high turnout of 970 football players in Aizawl. The entire journey has been quiet impressive, it is a tough call to pick any one city in specific,” elucidated Kulkarni on the sheer number of participants which impressed the scouts.

Did Liverpool’s lightning form in the Premier League helped concretize opinion that ‘The Liverpool Way’ is no doubt the best way to learn football, the DSK Shivajians boss replied, “Liverpool has always had its huge fan following in India. The LFC International Football Academy – DSK Shivajians in itself has proved to bring the club closer to the fans no matter how far away from Anfield they live.

"Our attention to detail in ensuring each and every boy who turned up for trials was given an equal opportunity to showcase his skills and experience the ‘Liverpool Way'. Liverpool's brilliant run in the Premier League added to the excitement to the already created interest in India’s first International Residential Football Academy.”

“The academy would serve the youth of India to get that perfect nurturing, facilities and learning environment under the guidance of coaches from Liverpool. The academy would serve to develop and nurture talent which would represent the country across various age groups and also go onto play for DSK Shivajians team,” replied Kulkarni when tugged on why his club were investing in an academy when they could have shown interest in participating in the proposed Indian Super League (ISL) or even the I-League.

Kulkarni was asked what in his opinion was more necessary for Indian football - grassroot development or lots of marketing to which he expounded, “Indian football certainly needs grassroot development as the prime focus. What we have clearly learnt from our scouting trips is that there is no shortage of interest and talent. The challenge lies in channelising and nurturing talent to ensure one reaches their full potential.

"Our state of the art infrastructure at the DSK International Campus in Pune and expertise from Liverpool coaches provides the best platform for players. 2 x Full time coaches from Liverpool, Single room air-conditioned apartments, swimming pool, gymnasium and more. It’s about providing the perfect environment on and off the field for talent to excel. At our academy, we are looking into the individual needs of each player and helping them to progress as players and more importantly good human beings."

Ardeshir Jeejeebhoy, CEO of the said academy drew light on the academy's further plans in the coming year.

"After the success of the six city scouting tour, we would now turn our attention to other cities in India, as we plan to scout further talent from Kolkata, Kerala, Chandigarh and more. India is a vast country and the talent is spread across the nation. Keeping that in mind, we would like to provide aspiring footballers with a proper platform to showcase their talent and therefore, we will be more than happy to organize further scouting trips within the country."

"Due to the Board examinations, earlier this year, we were unable to visit certain cities, but later this year, we will definitely go there," assured Jeejeebhoy.